Today, we take you to the building complex known as Arsenale, on the island city of Venice, Italy. The historic shipyard is one of the main venues for the 57th Venice Art Biennale. Inside the New Zealand pavilion, I immerse myself in New Zealand born artist Lisa Reihana’s immersive exhibition titled Emmisaries.
The cinematic centerpiece of the installation is captivating—a vast panoramic video that reimagines the French scenic wallpaper Les Sauvages De La Mer Pacifique, (in English, Savages of the Pacific Ocean). Completed in 1805, the 20-panel design represents a colonial perspective, the memory of British explorer Captain James Cook’s Pacific voyages.
In the darkness of the space, visitors sit on low bench watching, as life-sized vignettes scroll past from right to left on a wall-sized screen that spans the room. Imagine pages from a history book coming to life, but with a twist. In these scenes, the gaze is reversed; we see the impact of British imperialism through the eyes of the colonized.
The artist suggests that we reconsider the meaning of authenticity, history and myth. Drawing on contemporary audio-visual technologies, inviting indigenous actors to interpret their own cultural history, and re-animating traditional instruments and artifacts, Reihana reveals how beauty, power and desire have shaped her home country.
Sound editor: Alyssa Moxley | Photos courtesy New Zealand in Venice and Fresh Art International
Related Fresh Art International radio program: Where Art Meets Cultural History
Contributed by Evelyne Zapata for Fresh Art International.